Top

The still unfolding drama

The still unfolding  drama
Highlights

At a pinch, India is a tireless pilgrim at the gates of Time, waiting for the pre-ordained and anticipated Tryst with Destiny that Jawaharlal Nehru...

It is time someone told the untold story of India, a story that would legitimately belong to the silvered labyrinths of myth and imagination were it not true, but which needs to be sorted and sifted to help the world understand what India really means, the glory that it was, and is. Glory does not lie in the value of the rupee, but in the value of the man who adds glory to it

India is essentially its people. Desam antay matti kadoyi, desam antay manushuloyi, wrote a celebrated Telugu poet. They have made it what it is. They have made their gods, their temples, mosques and churches to reflect the awe of the Divine, the wonder of the world around, people of different colours, of many racial stocks, absorbed in thought and prayer and adoration, producing many languages and literatures, living old and new ways of life, so different from one another, and yet all Indian
Mohammed Vazeeruddin
At a pinch, India is a tireless pilgrim at the gates of Time, waiting for the pre-ordained and anticipated Tryst with Destiny that Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of in his speech at midnight on August 14-15, 1947. The tryst may or may not be imminent, but the pilgrim’s progress so far, for millennia, has been exhilarating and bears recollection. All the same, the world must know what a hard row the pilgrim has had to hoe in quest of the rendezvous. There is need to dredge up silted memories, or dispel ignorance, as the case may be, about India which is a lot more than a geographical entity.
The story of India began millennia ago, and is still unfolding. It bids fair to go on till Eternity. It is still Act One. Yet there is no need to novelise, or even dramatise, the pilgrim’s progress. The interminable luggage of greatness rightly interests us less than the concise mysteries of human character, the many overlapping outlines that hold the elusive national soul as in a net, and the complexity of the human situation in which so much is fixed and yet so much seeded by chance.
India is only partly its rivers and mountains and the culture of centuries through which it has lived. No country means only its geography or history. India is essentially its people. Desam antay matti kadoyi, desam antay manushuloyi, wrote a celebrated Telugu poet. They have made it what it is. They have made their gods, their temples, mosques and churches to reflect the awe of the Divine, the wonder of the world around, people of different colours, of many racial stocks, absorbed in thought and prayer and adoration, producing many languages and literatures, living old and new ways of life, so different from one another, and yet all Indian.
India is no longer rapt in itself. It is wide awake, aware of the world, a small part of the many shining worlds around. Yet, in spite of its identification with other-worldliness, India is of this world, a sub-continent of multitudes exemplifying the many in the one. Little wonder there is a congestion of cultural forms in spite of some blank pages in Indian history.
India was there for centuries before anyone gave it a name, as a concept, as a civilization, as a legend which lived in the vision of its sages and on which constellations shed their light, a dream of splendour which beckoned the wandering conqueror.
The Vedas, the Upanishads, the great epics, Jainism and Buddhism, the Gita and other compositions of the human spirit, ignorance, enlightenment, schisms, creeds, the coming of St Thomas, the impact of Islam, Guru Nanak Dev, the Industrial Revolution which arrived late, the lamp-lighters of the Renaissance, Gandhiji, Tagore, the mathematicians who discovered the zero and gifted it to the world a part of which reduced itself to it, to modern astrophysicists and atomic scientists, all these and more, jointly and severally, are India. Every century is represented in this country. Indian life is like a tranquil ocean, vast and diverse and yet unified.
All the same, Hindu and Muslim socio-religious reform in India has owed much to Western influence. Without forgetting the wrongs, India can afford to recall the advantages of the British impact through men like Bentinck, Munroe, Elphinstone, Canning, the Lawrences and others, and the line of scholars that Sir William Jones began and that has come through Max Muller and Basham, helping Indians to discover and rediscover India, mainly through the use of English.
Why did India lose independence? Did it qualify for freedom? The achievement of freedom by India is the transformation of a civilisation into a nationality, and the fulfillment of nationality through the establishment of national sovereignty. It was a dialectical process: the first step was the destruction of the older order culminating in 1857; the second step was the emergence of a new order that gathered momentum during the following half a century; the third was one of conflict and synthesis and the emergence of the Indian nation-state.
Gandhiji is now scripture. But merely to quote him is to be holistic but unhistorical. Much has happened, and has been happening, in reaction to Gandhiji, and that is a measure of his greatness. Freedom did not come with a bang; it came along with much pain and wading through blood.
The beginnings of the freedom struggle, in retrospect, look like a Victorian burlesque; its leaders made obsequious references to Providence and loudly swore their loyalties to the Queen Empress. The nationalist movement had its factionalism, and the upheaval of Gandhiji had its reaction in the upheaval that Jinnah caused. The leaders of the majority community made mistakes: when they could be generous, they were niggardly. The leaders of the minority community too made mistakes: when they could be rightly insistent they were irrational.
Eschewing both panegyric and propaganda, it is necessary to educate many foreigners and more Indians on what many Indians living in India do not know about their country. For instance, the Taj Mahal needs no introduction to Indians or foreigners. But how many of either can claim to have heard of another Taj Mahal made of black marble that Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan got constructed within a stone’s throw from the mausoleum of his wife so that in death, as in life, they might not remain too far apart? Or that the Viceroy, Lord Bentinck, a firm believer in Utilitarian philosophy, toyed with the idea of dismantling the Taj Mahal, and selling away the precious material with which it had been built so that money might be earned to be spent on human welfare?
Take, for instance, discovery of India, its colours and the subtle nuances of its life. How come that what was once dismissed as a concept got concretised into a country? The Indus Valley civilisation exemplified the stage of advancement India had reached that early, for instance through a sophisticated underground sewage system and well-planned towns. What contribution was made to India’s enrichment by, and during, each phase of its evolution, by whom and with what motivation? What was the relevance of that contribution to the progress of Indian civilization? For instance, how what may have been a leisure activity to the contributor proved a matter of historical necessity with time?
Take, for instance, the Ashoka pillars and the handiworks of later potentates, evolution of various languages and the literatures therein; ancient Indian architecture, and that born in the medieval period; transformation of Yoginipura into Shahjahanabad and therefrom to Delhi. A temple dedicated to Ma Yogini, believed to have been built by Yudhister, is still there for all to see, the terminal point of the “Phool Walon Ki Sair” procession every year.
These, cumulatively, provide a glimpse of India. Ancient monuments still creak out a tale of glory. For example, from the “mamoon-bhanja” shrine at Sonepat in Haryana to the Jain temple at Hubli in Karnataka where justice is dispensed as in a court of law and where all communities accept the verdict without a demur, India is dotted with shrines that blend sanctity with universal acceptability.
From Indus Valley civilisation to Dr Manmohan Singh, the progress of the nation in almost every field sometimes looks caught in a thorny thicket of controversy. That too is India that has people often fighting without a cause. Or consider the cultural efflorescence down the centuries, culminating in modern literature, both in Indian languages and in English. That is India too. A sense of oneness and national destiny has throughout lain under apparent diversities and divergences.
Rigid religions have dissolved in the solvent of mysticism through the Bhakti or Sufi cult and its message of brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God, notwithstanding the fundamentalist fringe that manifested itself in Gujarat. Consider Baba Farid, a Sufi saint, who became an integral part of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture. In short, an overwhelming majority of Indians believe in the religion of man, not in chanting hymns of hate. Additions to, and evolution of, Indian art and architecture, with their finer points, deserve to be discussed and explained. For example, what is known as Moghul/Muslim architecture was a fine synthesis of imported and indigenous ideas.
The positive aspects of Muslim India and its contribution to the enrichment of the country’s cultural and spiritual heritage manifested themselves through the short-lived “Din-e-Ilahi”. By the same token, how many Indians know that the jewel of the Vijayanagar Empire, Krishnadevaraya, patronised Islam and endowed generously Muslim shrines, or that some of the most frequented temples in Tamil Nadu have enjoyed the munificence of successive Nawabs of Arcot? Such true stories would help Indians understand their India better.
What about the decline and fall of the Moghul Empire and its after-effects? The most significant aspect of this event was not the establishment of rule by the East India Company, but that the mutineers in 1857, professing different faiths, all wanted to reinstall Bahadur Shah, the last Moghul for all practical purposes, as the “Shahenshah-e-Hindustan”. That they did not succeed is an irony of history. That they attempted it is a testament to their secularism
Now, what about the decline and fall of the Moghul Empire and its after-effects? The most significant aspect of this event was not the establishment of rule by the East India Company, but that the mutineers in 1857, professing different faiths, all wanted to reinstall Bahadur Shah, the last Moghul for all practical purposes, as the “Shahenshah-e-Hindustan”. That they did not succeed is an irony of history. That they attempted it is a testament to their secularism.
The advent of English rule needs to be studied and understood with as much emphasis on its advantages as on its disadvantages. The aberrations of, say, Warren Hastings were at least partly offset by India’s entry into the modern age and the beginning of the nationalist movement. Initiators of the movement did not demand freedom for the country, but at best autonomy. How that half-hearted approach grew into fiery nationalism is a fascinating vignette of modern Indian history, deserving of wide publicity.
The advent of Gandhiji and the fillip it gave to the nationalist movement is another chapter of Indian history. If the pathetic plight of the indigo workers of Bihar had not moved the Mahatma, he would perhaps not have plunged into the politics of freedom struggle. That is one of the big “ifs” of modern Indian history deserving of wide attention. The Mahatma’s entry into politics in India really came three years after his arrival in India in 1915, contrary to the common belief that the moment he arrived in India he plunged headlong into the politics of the freedom struggle.
Achievement of freedom and emergence of a truncated India, notwithstanding the earnest desire of the average Hindu and the average Muslim for a united India and opposition to Partition need to be understood in the proper perspective if our independence is to mean anything. How a handful of big landlords of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar posed as champions of Muslims and demanded Partition if only to serve their own interests has not yet been explained adequately. That perhaps is another aspect of India that seems to sink deeper and deeper into mystery the more the mystery is unraveled.
And it is important for every Indian to understand all these unanswered and ill-answered questions.

Show Full Article
Print Article
Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
More Stories
Top