Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bankim synthesised Western secular concept of nationalism with tradition

An article on the concept of the Indian nationhood WHAT HISTORY DOESN'T TELL US  by Makarand Paranjape Life Positive August 1997
The importance of dharma in Indian life has been summed up well by Sri Aurobindo in his famous Uttarpara speech in 1909:
"When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is theSanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists. To magnify the religion means to magnify the country." When Aurobindo was in jail, the Divine actually spoke to him, giving him the following message: "Since long ago I have been preparing this uprising and now the time has come and it is I who will lead it to its fulfillment."
At the end of this historic speech, Aurobindo repeated his main contention:
"I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith; I say that it is Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatan Dharma, with it, it moves and with it, it grows. When Sanatan Dharma declines, then the nation declines " 
Of course, it needs to be stressed that by Sanatan Dharma, Aurobindo meant the eternal, universal religion, not any particular sect or creed:
"If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose." […]

Vande Mataram, the anthem, was banned as was Anandmath. Yet the worship of Mother India or Bharat Mata once instituted was here to stay. Across the Indian political spectrum, regardless of ideological differences, the idea of the sacredness of the Motherland was widely accepted.
Bankim's novel inspired many revolutionaries who gave up their lives for their Motherland. Aurobindo himself considered to be a prophet of Indian nationalism, during his revolutionary phase wanted a Bharat Mata Mandir to be established in every province of India. These temples were to be the nucleus of revolutionaries who like Bankim's sanyasis would dedicate their lives to the freedom of the country. 
Thus the Indian revolutionaries, who were an important part of the struggle for freedom, also derived their inspiration from spirituality and religious sources. Of course such patriotism, taken to its extreme, may breed chauvinistic nationalism. 

Bankim Chatterjee gave us what Sri Aurobindo has described as the religion of patriotism. Vande Mataram was banned, as was Anand Math. Yet the worship of Mother India or Bharat Mata once instituted, was here to stay. Across the Indian political spectrum, regardless of ideological differences, the idea of the sacredness of the Motherland was widely accepted. […]
Bankim synthesised the Western secular concept of nationalism with the tradition and needs of Hindus even though he was thinking in terms of Bengal and not India when he wrote. He enunciated a specific relationship between culture and power, that certain cultural values are more advantageous than others in the pursuance of power. Since these attributes are not congenital characteristics, but the product of cultural conditioning, they can be developed through the cultivation of appropriate national-cultural values.
To his merit he aroused the cultural and idealogical identity of Indians, a majority of them being Hindus. In this respect, I believe that whatever comparisons are there between the Hindu goddesses (Durga, Kali, Lakhshmi or Saraswati) with Mother India, they are meant to enspirit the Indian soul with a devotion towards the deified country.
Such a deification of the country as we know was to inspire many millions of Indians throughout the freedom struggle. Aurobindo himself considered to be a prophet of Indian nationalism, during his revolutionary phase wanted a Bharat Mata Mandir to be established in every province of India. These temples were to be the nucleus of revolutionaries who, like Bankim's sanyasis, would dedicate their lives to the freedom of the country. Thus the Indian revolutionaries, who were an important part of the struggle for freedom, also derived their inspiration from spirituality and religious sources. Of course such patriotism, taken to its extreme, may breed chauvinistic nationalism. [Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Anandmatha: Genesis of bigotry in South Asia Posted on May 15, 2010]

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