Part 1: Introduction(when it began…)
Yes at the stroke of midnight back in 15th august, 1947 as the world slept there was a nation which awoke and decided to take its firsts steps to fulfilling its tryst with its destiny. A nation was born. On the heart of a land that was as ancient as the human civilization. A society that was as diverse as the human civilization. Tagore spoke of unity in diversity. I learnt those words when I was in school. I started realising this when I was much older. My realization still continues. So does my wonder at the land of India.
India. Bharatvarsh of the Vedic and medieval ages. After the great Mahabharata ruler, Bharata. Hindustan to the conquerors of the late middle ages. Conquerors from the land of sand and date palms. Conquerors from the land of the fearless Mongols. Conquerors who followed the religion of Islam. Hindusthan for this was the land of Hindus. The only land where the people followed the religion of Hinduism. And finally India. The name given to it by its Anglo-Christian conquerors. The anglicised version of Hind.
When the country was born the baby decided to take the name of India. Not Hindustan but India. India the name given to it by its conquerors against whom we fought for two hundred years. For by the midnight of august 15th India was no longer Hindustan- the land of the Hindus. It was the land of the Hindus, the land of the Sikhs, the land of the Muslims, the land of the Christians, the land of the Jains, the land of the Jews- no matter how few. The idea behind the name India stemmed from the idea which our great founders had of the country. Yes great founders. Often criticized by a lot including me, these were men who were great in their own rights. People like me who were born in the independent India often overlook the price of the freedom like our fathers before us. That’s why we are quick to pass our judgments against these great yet flawed men who stitched together a nation out of states which are as diverse and varied as the entire globe. No European or for that matter any other national will ever realise the concept of a nation where the idea of god, food, language, clothes, songs, culture … everything changes every two hundred kilometres. The idea of the country lay somewhere in the description of the land given by Gurudev. The land where human race will achieve unity in diversity. The race which in the coming years will show the world the concept of living in harmony. The concept of coexistence. That’s why the name India was chosen. India of all. Not Pakistan the land of the pure Muslims. Bangladesh the land of the Bangla speakers. But India. The land where all were welcome. A staggering 65 years on we are a staggering nation covering more than a sixth of the world population.
It would have been simpler and more convenient for us to name this country Hindustan. The Hindus of the world deserved a home. The Muslims of the world had Pakistan and many other countries. The whole of the west was there for the Christians. But like the Jews of the world the Hindus needed a land they could call home. So we could have built out a Hindustan like the Jews built out Israel. Had we followed that path we would have been better than them as we definitely had more resources and not that bad in terms of our abilities. Today when we look at our societies some times that thought does cross some of our minds.
And yet that is exactly the point where we make our mistake. This is the land of the Hindus. This is the true land of believers of the philosophy of Hinduism. Because Hinduism- belying the cliché- is not a religion. It is a whole school of religious and spiritual ideas. The most central to the idea however is the centre of the idea of India. The idea of inclusion. Hinduism is at once a thought process of advaita or one god philosophy and at the same time that of a thousand gods. It is also the abode of the belief in non-existence of god which was propagated by karaka and also included in the philosophy. It is a religion which talks about the main gods of creation, maintenance and destruction. It also talks about the concept of goddess. It talks about the concept of the woman as the holders of Shakti or uurja- energy, power of the universe. It talks about the high and lofty god figures and also talks about the concept of Shiva-Parvati in every element- a strong parallel to the atomic theory of the constitution of the universe. The central idea and reason behind the confusion and misuse of the tenets of the religion is the fact about its multiplicity. The philosophy of Hinduism has been as varied and as diverse as the universe. And somewhere I believe that to comprehend something as vast and varied as the universe the theory could not be a simple one.
Thus unlike other religions in the world Hinduism does not have those set of rules or the set of faqs or dos-don’ts. The beauty and the problem with the concept lie in its diversity. Much like the fact that the beauty and complexity of the country also lies in its diversity. That’s why so many other religions were born in this land and got accepted by the people. But if you look closer all these religions have strong resonance with elements of Hinduism. People accepted them as they simplified the tasks of the man on how to lead his life. When other religion from other lands came in they were also embraced and accepted. Over time many other reasons like oppression, forced conversions, casteism became reasons for conversions. But the core reason for them to last in the country was the basic acceptance they had from the people of the land. Else with the passing of the rulers the religions would also have got wiped clean. Within Hinduism there have been multiple prophets and great saints who have time and again explained and re-exerted the values of the religion and simplified it for the commoner. But the most fascinating thing has been that in spite of all this the concept of Hinduism has survived for thousands of years. Embraced other philosophies and religions and have learnt how to coexist.
This is the apt home for Hinduism. This is the land of the right amount of diversity and conflicting philosophies for a philosophy like Hinduism to survive and flourish. So unlike the Jew, the Buddhist, the Muslim- India is the land of Hinduism in its diversity and multiplicity. Thus India. The land of all and many. Among them the Hindus. That was the idea of our forefathers who built this land and made the disjointed group of kingdoms- of the pre-colonial era- into a country called India.
Some sixty five years back this India started on its way towards building the microcosm of the universe. With dreams and ambitions of the world and the millions who lived in it. As Rushdie says- it was burdened with the weight of expectations right from the start. There were expectations of a better life and livelihood, of power and glory, of development and science but most importantly the expectations of being a nation. Yes, being a nation. Being a nation is not easy. Even for more homogeneous and less complicated societies. As for India it was anyways the most complex and diverse society to start with. So being a nation and surviving as one was one of the biggest challenges and expectations that had been set for ourselves.
It is important to understand the concept called nation. To understand where we have reached in our path towards our destiny. Nation- a word derived from the Latin natio- meaning to be born…to come into existence. However over the centuries the significance of the term nation has changed a lot.
Definition of nation (source- Oxford Dictionary)
A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.
Difficult proposition isn’t it? Common descent? Not really. Common history? Perhaps. Culture? Language? Ha! So as I said becoming a nation is not as easy as it may seem. The biggest challenge in the path of the nation is also its biggest asset- its diversity.
After our founding fathers had passed the guards it was up to our next generation to ensure that the walk towards our destiny. The difficult and arduous walk towards our destiny of becoming a true nation. A journey so difficult required leadership which was strong and brave enough for the job. However beyond that the leadership needed to be selfless. As very shrewdly our father of the nation had said- the world has enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. This statement was most significant for the strong shoulders where the responsibility of the nation lay. And perhaps that is the point where the cracks started.
However before going digging into the history it needs to be understood what exactly these challenges are in our path towards our destiny…..