Recollecting Ourselves

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Nature has endowed India with the most fertile lands in the world, and this land of plenty has been enclosed within the most secure natural borders. In the vastness of her fertile plains, in the greatness and ubiquity of her rivers, and in the abundance of her rains and sunshine, there is just no other region of the world that can be compared with India. It is indeed to express their gratitude for bringing such abundance to our lands that Indians having been paying perpetual obeisance to the Himalayas; to Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri; and to the gods of sun and rain.

            Having been blessed with such plenty and natural security, Indians have created a civilization that is unparalleled in its spiritual as well as material affluence and sophistication. They have learnt and taught others to live in harmony with, and to solicitously care for, all sentient and insentient beings. They have evolved a social system that, with its anchorage in the family and community, is self-disciplined and self-regulating. And they have acquired extraordinary skills in agriculture and industry to convert their natural endowments into such material wealth that foreign observers, from the time of Alexander up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, have marvelled at their riches.
            India is a vast country. From the northern borders of Kashmir to the southernmost tip at Kanyakumari, our land extends over 3200 kilometres, and from the eastern boundary of Assam to the western border of Baluchistan, it extends over 3500 kilometres. Total area of what has historically constituted India is 423 million hectares! The fact that Indian Ocean is the only one in the world that is named after a country, speaks volumes about the tradition of Indian opulence and abundance and the Indian discipline of sharing over the successive ages in history from the ancient most times. Uttaram yatsamudrasya himadrescaiva daksinam. Varsam tadbharatam nama bharati yatra santatih.
            With rich soils, climate and water, it is not surprising that India supports an extraordinarily great variety of flora and fauna. There are about 45,000 species of plants including shrubs in the country. Of these 35 percent are endemic to India, and are not found anywhere else in the world. India supports 75,000 species of animals, birds and insects. This forms one-twelfth of the known fauna of the earth, though in terms of geographical area, we are only one-fortieth of the earth.

            India’s great mineral wealth makes her probably the third most gifted of the world’s regions with respect to industrial capacity. Having blessed with such extraordinary natural wealth it is not surprising that Indian lands have always supported vast multitudes. But we have not only been blessed with a land of rare fertility and wealth, but also the gods seem to have conspired to make this land into an impregnable fortress. Indians have been the largest civilisational group in the world till almost the modern times.

            India lives in harmony with all creation and sees unity and order in all. Sharing and caring is the essence of Indianness. These basic tenets of Sanatana Dharma brought students from all over the world to the shores of India to study the people of this land and their philosophy and culture.

            Indian civilization has not only comprehended the essence of the universe; it has also evolved a social order appropriate for leading life in conformity with that comprehension. The Indian social organization is thus as peculiarly Indian as the larger view of the universe. The grihastha, the householder along with his family, and not the individual, forms the basic unit of Indian social, economic and moral order.

            The Dharma Rajya: much of what a modern State is expected to do in the sphere of public polity is in India accomplished through these social groupings – of the community – the grama and the sampradaya – in their respective domains and in their mutual interactions – with the king who sits at the apex of this self-generating and self-regulating polity regulating harmonious functioning of these diverse groupings and institutions of the society in their different domains and roles.

            But it was not just the socio-political institutions of this land and their ethical tenets or the view of cosmic oneness and the rich philosophy and culture of its people that brought the foreigners and marauding invaders into India, but it was India’s excellence in the fields of agriculture, industry and enterprise that resulted in her overflowing opulence. Textile was not only the great industrial enterprise of India but her greatest craft too. India excelled in iron and steel making also.

            India entered a phase of eclipse with the coming of the British; the darkness had probably begun to set in earlier, since about 1000AD. However, this period of subjugation to alien rulers constitutes a miniscule part of the long civilisational history of India. With independence, India has begun to come into her own. India has achieved much in the frontier technologies of today. We have established a strong infrastructure and knowledge base for a great industrial revival. The families and communities of India have begun to participate in this revival using their long established civilisational strengths and skills.

            Mahatma Gandhi had reawakened the spirit of India. Under his great and dynamic leadership India aroused great expectations in the world.

            On gaining Independence, we could not entirely fulfill the high expectations the world had from us. But, we began the task of restoring our lands and our society to some state of health in earnest. People of India began to improve their lands and their agriculture. The craftsmen and artisans began reviving the manufacture and industry. The State began to pay attention to rebuilding the infrastructure.

            The fact of being Independent, and the invigorating experience of having participated in the great and righteous struggle for freedom, restored the initiative and the dignity of the Indian people, and they began a revival of their country and their society.

            The revival however is constrained by the failure of modern metropolitan elite of India to recognize the strengths of India and of the people of India. The elite India so far has failed to enter into a proper partnership with the ordinary India that is organized around self-discipline and self-regenerating families, communities and localities and is anchored in the Indian civilisational genius.

            The national effort should be aimed at facilitating this partnership between metropolitan elite and the families, communities and localities of the people of India. Once the partnership is restored, there would be nothing to stop India from achieving the glory that is rightfully hers.

 

Probal Ray Choudhury

About Probal Ray Choudhury

Born in a traditional Brahmana family of Bengal (Kolkata). Probal had his schooling in Kolkata, and undergraduate and graduate level studies in Chennai, where he had the opportunity of meeting some very important people -- who were all great teachers and wonderful human beings -- and who, in his own words, "accepted me as their student and made me what I am today. It is they who shaped my thinking, gave wings to my ideas, and augmented my knowledge and refined my understanding." Probal's academic interests lie in the study of Indian culture and civilization, especially Indian history and functionality of pre-British Indian polity. As a high school student he represented India at an international children rights parliament held at the United Nations, New York. Probal considers himself as a Bharatiya Hindu and a nationalist. He reads and admires Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Sister Nivedita, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Dharampal, and considers himself as their fan.
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