Text of speech delivered at Yugaantar 2019 organised by Maharaja Sayyajirao University, Vadodara on January 25, 2019
Honorable Vice-chancellor, Madam Director, Registrar Sir, all the distinguished members of the university faculty and my dear young friends,
Jigar has indirectly hinted that I’m coming again and again. I promise you that this will be my last visit to Yugantaar. Because, I have come here as a speaker, I came here as a valedictory speaker and today I have come as the inaugural speaker. The circle is complete. Actually, I was trying my best to avoid this session.
Number 1: I have come twice before.
Number 2: the topic is so heavy that I was scared of speaking as the inaugural speaker and making you all feel bored. I tried my best to escape from this commitment. But finally, I could not succeed. The result is that I’m in front of you.
I remember a very funny anecdote. In Tenali Ramakrishna’s life, Tenali was a famous poet and a court jester, he also faced a similar situation once. He was invited to speak on a topic which he thought was a very difficult topic. But he was forced to come. When he came to the auditorium, before commencing his speech he asked the audience, ‘so and so is my topic today. How many of you know anything about it?’ So generally out of respect for the speaker, although the audience knew about the topic a little bit, nobody said they knew about it. Because that could probably discourage the speaker. So then Tenali Ramakrishna found an excuse and he said that it is such a difficult topic that people who do not know anything on it, can never understand it. So there is no use of me speaking on this topic. He wound up his speech and left.
But the organizers decided that they should not leave this fellow so they called him again. This time again he asked the same question ‘how many of you know about it?’ Because of their previous experience, the audience said yes we know something about it. They all raised their hands. Then Tenali Ramakrishna said ‘now that you all know about it, what’s the point in me wasting time again telling you the same thing. So please excuse me.’ Saying that he left.
The organizers were so adamant. They caught hold of him and brought him back third time, like me. Again Tenali asked the same question, ‘how many of you know about the topic?’ There was already a plan among the audience that this time if he asks the question they have to be clever. This time half of the audience on left side raised their hands and half on the right did not raise their hands. But Tenali Ramakrishna was a very clever man, unlike me. He said ‘now half people any way know about it, so please explain to those who do not know. Why do you need me?’
But I am not so clever. So I ended up standing in front of you, trying to deal with a very difficult topic. The whole concept of nation/ Rashtra, Rashtriyata/Nationalism, what do we mean by all these? You know the interesting part of this is, for us Indians it’s not actually about the definition, it’s a feeling. Nobody needs to explain to you that India is our country. We always feel it’s our country. It’s a sentiment. It is not the intellect that tells you what your nation is, what your nationality is all about. It’s your heart, not your mind.
Duniya main isko lekar confusion hai, kyuki main Europe ko refer kar rahan hoon, main Hindi mein bol raha hoon. Main baad main British Deputy High Commissioner ko explain kar dunga what I said. Hoping that he would not understand Hindi. Main unhi ke desh se shuru karta hoon. Isiliye Hindi main bol raha hoon. 1701 main England, Scotland, Wales mil kar Great Britain bane. 100 saal bad Ireland par kabza karke United Kingdom banaye. 100 saal beetne ke baad Scotland ne kaha, nahi hum inke saath nahi, hum alag hai, referendum karo. Us beech main aadha Ireland swatantra ho gaya, northern island UK ka part reh gaya. Aaj bhi humara United Kingdom kya hai, iski definition ki talashi chal rahi hai wahan. Fair enough. These are new nation states. Many nation states in Europe have a history of about 200-300 years as nation states.
In 1776 United States of America created its constitution. They created a constitution in which certain states have the right secede whenever they want. That constitution says when you want to secede from America you can. That means a political arrangement was created in United States of America.
In 1993 one of the greatest American political scientist who is no more, Samuel Huntington came up with one of his controversial books called the Clash of Civilizations. It has become a bit controversial for his theory says that there will ultimately be a clash between the Islamic civilization and the West. He wrote it in early 90s, subsequently so much happened. One may disagree or agree. But there is a clash. Well a clash is right or wrong is not our subject today. But his last book was titled ‘Who are we?’ This was authored in 2003. United States of America came into being as a constitutional entity of a nation in 1776 when Jefferson was the President. Some 225 years later the biggest question that bothered the minds of the American intellectuals were ‘after all who are we?’ The book’s subheading is ‘America’s search for identity.’
They have this confusion about after all what is our national identity, ‘who are we’. Now you see a new controversy in America where President Trump wants to build a wall across the Mexican border. He feels that America is a different country, so we should protect it from the influx from Mexico and other South American countries. They are trying to invent an American identity. Until now the American identity used to be described as a melting pot. Melting pot is basically Sambhar, South Indian Sambhar which has all types of leftover vegetables. Boil it and you will have a yummy Sambhar.
America used to be described like a melting pot. Then they said no you can’t always remain as a melting pot, where whoever wants to come can come and whoever wants to go can go. You should have an American identity. That is the challenge for them. This is the reality of Europe and the West. In Europe the nation states emerged in the last couple of hundred years. For them the basis was either the ethnicity or political governance. Like I mentioned to you in the case of countries like United Kingdom the governing institutions have become the center of their national identity.
In different European nations it is the ethnicity which became the basis for their national identity. So they propounded certain theories about nations. As far as we Indians are concerned we never had any confusion at all. When we were fighting for independence before 1947 where was the confusion? Why were we fighting against the British? Because we thought India is an independent one country. Had we had any confusion we would have said, ‘No let there be independence only for Gujarat. Why should I bother about Maharashtra, or any other part of the country? We thought the entire country should be free. When we said the entire country we had the country from Himalayas to the Hind Mahasaagar as one unit, one nation. There was never any confusion. This confusion we invented post the independence. Once we became independent, we created our own constitution in 1950, suddenly we realized, ‘humaara bhi nation hai, to kya hai?’ Because Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of the country was educated in Europe and was influenced by the European value system and European discourse, so looking at the European discourse on Nation states he felt that probably in India also we have to create a nation again. So he used to say having become independent, ‘we are a nation in the making’. We are still not a full nation but slowly becoming into one. Our intellectuals followed thinking yes, we have to make a nation in India. If we were to make India into a nation after the independence, what were we fighting for before independence?
Gandhi ji never had any confusion. In fact, Gandhi ji considered this nation as a spiritual entity. It was never a physical entity in his eyes. It was always a spiritual entity and one had to experience it, in Gandhi ji’s eyes. He was asked; ‘What will be the kind of India that you envisage after independence?’ Gandhiji replied promptly, ‘Ramrajya’.
Now you ask any modern scholar what is this Ramrajya and he will say Ramrajya is a theocratic state, religious state. But Gandhi was not an idiot. Gandhi was not propounding the theory of any theocratic state. When he said Ramrajya, he meant, a nation imbued with a certain value system, a nation that is run on values, not just on certain rules and constitution, or laws. This nation of ours has been in existence for millennia. We never had any confusion. But post-independence the confusion has arisen in our minds. One was of course Nehru. The other group was the communists. There could be some communist sympathizers here in the audience also.
Post-independence, or during the last phase of independence, the one group that has repeatedly said India is not one nation, but many nations, were the communists. Look at their duplicity, their double standards. They were all supporting the Maoist struggle for a red China in China. What was the Maoist conception of China? Maoist conception of China was a nation created out of history. Mao said that in the history in the last 2000 years, so and so areas were ruled by the Chinese rulers, so all that should become China again. This was the logic used to justify annexation of areas like Manchuria, parts of Mongolia, entire Tibet, and entire Xinjiang. The logic given was that historically they belonged to China.
There, for our communist friends history came in handy to justify the creation of a nation through aggression. But when it came to India, historically, culturally, civilizational, religion wise this country has always remained one. But they said linguistically we are separate, so we are a separate nation. Because they wanted a strong China but a weak, divided India, which they continue to propagate because for them it suited the Chinese interests.
Friends, why I was referring to these things, was to remember if we ask any ordinary person in this country, the last man on the street, if we happen to get an opportunity, to go to the remotest village in your state, we must go to the house of the poorest family in that village. Talk to the oldest uneducated and illiterate old woman in that house, we should probably call it a hut. And listen to her morning prayer. She will say
‘गङ्गे च यमुने चैव गोदावरि सरस्वति ।
नर्मदे सिन्धु कावेरि जलेऽस्मिन् संनिधिं कुरु ॥
Probably she lives on the banks of Narmada in Gujarat, but she is talking about Ganga, which is 1000s of miles away. You ask her what is her life wish, and she will say, ‘in my lifetime I have to visit Kashi (Varanasi) once. I want to visit Rameshwaram once,’ Why? Who taught her that Rameshwaram is also part of her country?
This is the spirit of this land friends. This nation is a spiritual nation. This nation is not just geography. This nation was created on the basis of certain very noble value system. This value system was not handed down from heaven to somebody. No. This value system has evolved in this country. In Rigveda, there is a shloka that translates into ‘the sages had a benign wish in their hearts.’ What was that benign wish? ‘Abhyudaya’, the wellbeing of the people.
They thought about getting progress and making people happy, so they slowly developed a value system. A value system which is described in this country as Dharma, is the basis of our nationhood. In order to encourage people of this country to follow this system many institutions were created. Those institutions created a sense of oneness. In Vishnu Puraana, in Prithvisuktam, a sloka comes, they called this earth as Mata Prithvi. They said you have to worship this country as mother. There are countries in this world, like Russia, they also respect their country, but they call it father land and not motherland.
In our country, we were taught to look at the earth, the bhumi as a mother. We were told this whole country is sacred. It’s not just something you enjoy, it is sacred for you. In order for it to be sacred for you, they created lot of pilgrimages. Today Kumbh mela is going on at Prayag. The first day of Kumbh Mela, how many people have gone for the holy bath? Some 30 million people. Not just from India but all over the world. Every Indian feels, I must take a dip in sacred Ganga during Kumbh Mela. From Kerala, Tamil Nadu, they travel to Allahabad to take the holy dip. That is how this country is connected.
Adi Shankara started his journey from Kerala. He established four Maths in four corners of the country. One in Badrinath in extreme north. One in Dwarka on the West Coast. One in Puri, on the eastern coast. One in South connecting the country. There was an effort to create the feeling of oneness through pilgrimage, through culture, through religion. I see a couple of Sikh friends here. The ‘Panch pyare’ who were the first disciples, Khalsas of Sikh religion, who took their oath from Guru Gobind Singh himself. You know those 5 came from where. Not from Punjab. One came from Lahore. One came from Meerut. One came from Dwarka in Gujarat. One came from Puri in Odisha and the fifth came from Bidar in Karnataka.
The Sikh religion was led by people from 5 corners of this country. Guru Gobind Singh didn’t insist that Sikhism was a religion of Punjab, so all followers should come from Punjab. Because even the Sikh religion was meant to unite the Indian people, the Indian society. Because they are one people, one culture, one nation. This is India in its essence.
We are a Nation not controlled or guided by political establishments, not by governments. Yes, Government is important. But this nation, for it government is one of the parts that guide us. In Europe, in west probably, one has to strictly follow only the government’s guidelines. In India we do have to follow the government’s guidelines. But we have other institutions. Here government is one part.
In fact in the good olden days, when you had kingdoms, Maharajas, Rajas, in this country, some 60-70 years ago, when their coronation used to happen, like the Maharaja of Gaekwad, when he became the King, he would declare that I am the supreme king and nobody can punish me. Then there is a Raj Purohit. He had a Dharmadanda, a stick in his hands, he would hit on the shoulder of the king three times, which meant the Dharma can punish you. You are the master of the kingdom, but you are a slave before the values. You are here to protect the values. We had Kings like that, that was the state in this country.
You know the liberals, not just in India alone, but in the world, if you look at the liberal discourse, they say ‘who is this government? Who is this fellow Trump to dictate to me? Who is this Prime Minister Modi?’ Because we have freedom to do whatever we want. This is the liberal discourse. This liberal discourse is out of nation discourse. Yes, you are a liberal, you are not necessarily a King but you are slaves to our value system. That value system is what makes a distinct nation and every nation has a peculiar characteristic.
It is jocularly said and nobody should take offense to it. It is said that Germans don’t laugh. That doesn’t mean that Germans really don’t laugh. It is generally jocularly said that that if there is one German alone he would keep the world map in front of him and look for weak nations. Kamzor desh kahan hai dhoondtha hai. When the second German joins him they plan together an aggression on the weak nation. When a third German joins they actually launch the war. You know we have seen this nature. But that doesn’t mean today that Germany is an aggressive nation.
Today the British population is about 60 to 70 million. But once they conquered half of the world. Not through weapons but through the sheer skill of managing their business. That skill is attributed to the British. Every nation has that uniqueness. They have that unique characteristic by which they are recognized.
Once Swami Vivekananda was asked ‘what describes the Indian nation?’ How do you describe it? Is it a nation that occupies others? No, it’s not aggressive. Is it a nation of merchants? No, it is not a nation of merchants. We never did any business with anybody. Whenever we tried, we ended up losing.
You know the Cholas in south, they had their empires established in the Indian Ocean islands. Like Java, Sumatra and in these islands they had their kingdoms. What they used to do was to collect the taxes in those countries and add some money from their side to build schools, temples and build dharamshalas. It was a losing proposition. So in a way we never did business.
What is this nation known for? Vivekananda used to say ‘every nation has a duty to perform, a destiny to fulfill, a mission to accomplish. What is that mission of this nation? Mohd. Iqbal who was one of the prime movers of Pakistan who was responsible partly for the creation of Pakistan together with Jinnah had something interesting to say about India in saare jahan se accha. We all know about saare jahan se accha hindustan hamara.
In that he asked a very interesting question – ‘Yunan o misr o roma sab mit gaye jahan se, Ab tak magar hai baqi nam o nishan hamara, Kuch bat hai keh hasti milati nahin hamari’. He said ancient Rome has vanished. You have Rome which has nothing to do with the ancient culture and civilization of Rome. Ancient Egypt has vanished and nothing to do with the ancient kingdom. The ancient kingdoms of Rome, Mesopotamia and Egypt have all vanished. But this particular land of ours, namely Hindustan or India, ‘Kuch baat hai’ .There is something in it. ‘ki hasti mit-ti nahi hamari’ It does not vanish. Why? Vivekananda used to say because it has a divine mission to accomplish. That mission is expressed through its value system. We should always remember that we are a nation driven by that value system.
We used to have kingdoms. When India became independent we had 560 plus independent kingdoms. One of them is Baroda but did anyone doubt about India being one nation. No, they said India is one nation. Yes. There are 560 kings. But each king is not a different nation. The meaning is India is one nation not because of its politics not because of its geography but because it has a distinct value system and culture. It is that value system and culture that we need to preserve and promote in order for this nation not only to live, not only to survive but also to accomplish its destiny, its mission in the world.
Whenever, wherever that cultural, spiritual identity of this nation has been weakened you have lost your territory. Akhir Hindustan ka vibhaajan kyon hua 1947 me? Hamare desh ke andar 2 alag nation kis aadhar par hua. History par nahi, religion par hua. Jaise hi hum apne culture, history or past ko disown karte hain ham is rashtra ko baat-te hain, nasht karte hain.
This is the historical experience of our country. So it is important not just to have a political leadership. Of course we need to have political leadership, strong leadership like Modi ji. But beyond that but we need to build a strong, cultural, value based society in this country. Let me just throw a small light on the greatness of that culture and end my speech.
You will be discussing it through the next 2 days. You know, some people call this culture as backward. This is one country which has talked about happiness in this life. You know the essence of our Dharmshastras the very basis of our nation concept is Abhyudaya– Progress. Happiness.
This is a nation dedicated to happiness of the people, happiness of mankind. But happiness with certain values. Ham sab sunte hain-‘Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ Sarve santu nirāmayāḥ’ koi pandit ko bulao yahi shloka padega. The meaning of this primary sloka is – Everybody should be happy and nobody should have any problems and everybody should enjoy the goods in life. You could have good things in life. Nobody should have any sorrows in life. You should have no diseases, no sorrows, and no crimes, and have only all good things in life.
If you ask any westerner he will say- where is prayer in this? It is all materialism. But when our elders said this they said – Sarve. These should be available to each and every person. All should be happy not some. Just making Ambani ji or the minister happy won’t work. All should be happy. That is why it is said in our religion that to make everybody happy, everybody has to sacrifice.
There is a saying that when you earn, earn with a million hands. When I say a million hands don’t immediately remember Lalu Prasad Yadav. Million hands in a rightful way through Purushartha. Through your own effort. But friends remember eat with only one hand. You can’t say I’m earning with a million hands so I will eat with a million hands. No, you have to eat with one hand but the remaining 999 thousand hands you have to feed those who cannot earn. That is why when Vivekananda was asked about the identity of this nation he said it in 2 words- My nation’s identity and vision is service and sacrifice.
Friends, remember the greatness of this nation. You have to read this nation through its scriptures. Don’t go by what the TV debaters tell you at 9 O’ clock. They condemn this culture. They tell us about women. How women are insecure in this country. Yes this is very sad but don’t blame religion and the culture of this land. This is a land where the most liberal person like Draupadi had lived. The most progressive woman like Sita had lived. Most aggressive woman as Rani Lakshmibai had ruled. This is the country. This is the culture.
Read Ramayana, the epitome of human values. There Rama decides to discard Sita second time. For what reason. Because a washer man had cast certain aspersion on her. So Rama did a great wrong by discarding Sita. But that is the true grassroots democracy of India. The word of a washerman also mattered to the king in this country. Not just the rule of the majority and majority by hook or crook. No, every person’s view matters. But that doesn’t mean women can be discarded.
You know what happens subsequently, when she goes away, she gives birth to Luv and Kush.
A great battle happens between them and Laxman but nobody could defeat them. Finally, Ram comes and he realizes that Luv and Kush are his own children. Then he goes to Sita and requests her to come back with the children. You have to read what Sita says, that is Indian value. She says look, when somebody cast an aspersions on me that my womb had something illegitimate, you discarded me. I could have opted for death because of humiliation. But no, I’m the daughter of mother earth I am not a coward. I have lived to prove that you are wrong and not me. And today in the form of Luv and Kush, in their parakram– valor you realize that I was not wrong but you were. And now you have come to seek me to come back. I’m not like somebody who is ready to go away when discarded and come back when invited. No I’m not like that. Having proved my point I am handing over your children Luv and Kush to you and as far as I am concerned I will go to that place where my honor is protected. And she goes back to her motherland. This is Ramayana.
Draupadi was in a way responsible, because if you know Mahabharata one instance comes when there was a proposal that the Kauravas would give five villages to the Pandavas and they would be satisfied with it. Krishna gives that proposal as he knew that had this proposal been placed before Yudhishtir and he being the Dharmraj would have said ‘I don’t want war so let us take these 5 villages and be happy. After-all they are my cousins.’ Krishna takes this matter to Draupadi.
Draupadi says that I know my husband being the Dharmraj would go for it but please tell him if he is so shameless, let him accept it but let him be clear that I am not going accept anything short of Dushasan’s blood. Because Draupadi insisted that I want Dushasan’s blood there was the Mahabharat war, there was death of about 18 lakh people but nobody called Draupadi stubborn or solely responsible for the war. Instead we call her the Maha Sadhvi, her honour is more valuable than the great Mahabharat war. This is Indian culture and we should be proud of it and imbibe the true essence of it.
We are a nation because of this culture and such a rich value system. That can teach such a great message to not just to we Indians but to the whole mankind, friends and remember the words of Anne Besant when she said, ‘the day the Indian spirituality and Indian value system dies that day India dies. India shall not survive the day when you shall give up on your culture and your value systems’ that is the identity of this nation.
Friends, this is a heavy topic delve into it, learn as much as you can but remember we are a different nation we are a nation based on a value system called Dharma and we are the institution that has been the product of the value system. Cherish that value system, respect those institutions through which this nation survives. We all can be proud members of this great nation. Thank you.