The other main feature that distinguished our society was the Varna-vyavastha. But today it is being dubbed 'casteism' and scoffed at. Our people have come to feel that the mere mention of Varna-vyavastha is something derogatory. They often mistake the social order implied in it for social discrimination.
The felling of inequality, of high and low, which has crept into the Varna system, is comparatively of recent origin. The perversion was given a further fillip by the scheming Britisher in line with his 'divide and rule' policy. But in its original form, the distinctions in that social order did not imply any discrimination such as big and small, high and low, among its constituents. On the other hand, the Gita tells us that the individual who does his assigned duties in life in a spirit of selfless service only worships God through such performance:
LodeZ.kk reH;P;Z flf)a foanfr ekuo% AA
Society was conceived of as the fourfold manifestation of the Almighty to be worshipped by all, each in his own way and according to his capacity. If a Brahaman became great by imparting knowledge, a Kshatriya was hailed as equally great by for destroying the enemy. No less important was the Vaishya who fed and sustained society through agriculture and trade or the Shudra who served society through his art and craft. Together and by their mutual interdependence in a spirit of identity, they constituted the social order.
The wrong Scent
Looking at its present decadent and perverted form and mistaking it for its original form, there are some who never tire of propagating that it was the Varna-vyavastha that brought about our downfall down these centuries. But does this interpretation bear the scrutiny of history? Castes, there were in those ancient times too, continuing for thousands of years of our glorious national life. There is nowhere any instance of its having hampered the progress or disrupted the unity of society. It, in fact, served as a great bond of social cohesion.
Even during the past one thousand years when our nation fell before foreign onslaughts, there is no instance on record to show that caste distinctions were at the root of our national disunity that helped the invaders to conquer us. The person responsible for the defeat of Prithiviraj, the Hindu King at Delhi, by Mohammed Ghori was his own caste-relation Jayachand. The person who hounded Rana Pratap form forest to forest was none other than his own caste-man Raja Mansingh. Shivaji too was opposed by men of his own
caste. Even in the last-ditch battle between the Hindus and the British at Poona in 1818, it was a fellow casteman of the Peshwas, Natu by name, who lowered the Hindu flag and hoisted the British flag. There was a veritable race of such traitors but they were so because they fell a prey to other temptations and for other reasons. Caste never came into the picture.
If the caste system had really been the root cause of our weakness, then our people should have succumbed to foreign invasion far more easily than those people who had no castes. But what does history say? After the death of Mohammed Pygamber, his followers poured out form Arabstan in waves after waves with their swords dripping with blood and overran vast portions of the globe, trampling under their feet all the various empires that lay in their path--Iran, Egypt, Rome, Europe and all others right up to China. The people of those mighty empires were swept away before the fury of the Muslim onslaught-many never to appear again on the world stage.
The same tides of fanatic fury dashed also against the shores of Hindustan. But the picture that we see here is different altogether. Our people braved the onslaughts relentlessly for over a thousand years and instead of being sucked up, ultimately succeeded in crushing completely the forces of the enemy. The throne of Muslim power at Delhi lay shattered to pieces as a symbol of the conquering spirit of our people. All these centuries of fierce struggle for survival carried on upto final victory, be it remembered, the castes did exist.
We know as a matter of history that our northwestern and northeastern areas, where the influence of Buddhism had disrupted the caste system, fell an easy prey to the onslaughts of Muslims. Gandhar, now called Kandahar, became completely Muslimised. Conversion took a heavy toll in East Bengal also. But the areas of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which were considered to be very orthodox and rigid in caste restrictions, remained predominantly Hindu even after remaining as the citadels of Muslim power and fanaticism for a number of centuries. We know that even as late as Shivaji's time, the so-called 'low-caste' also played an epic role in the resurrection of swaraj.
Thus history bears eloquent witness to both sides of the picture. On the one hand, the so-called 'caste-ridden' Hindu Society has remained undying and unconquerable and still has the vitality to produce a Ramakrishana, a Vivekanada, a Tilak and a Gandhi after facing for over two thousand years the depredations of Greeks, Shakas, Hunas, Muslims and even Europeans, by one shock of which, on the other hand, the so-called casteless societies crumbled to dust never to rise again.
Adding Fuel to the Fire
Today, of course, the caste system has degenerated beyond all recognition. Added to the perversity aggravated over the centuries, a new factor has been introduced into our body-politic which has further intensified the rigidity and perversity of castes by those very persons who are most vociferous in their denunciation of the system. During elections, their consideration for selection of candidates as also their appeal to the voters is mainly
These days we are hearing much about Tamil. Some protagonists of Tamil claim that it is a distinct language altogether with a separate culture of its own. They disclaim faith in
'caste'. At the root of the rising tempo of caste hatred and rivalry lies this appeal to gross selfishness and love of power in the name of caste. Even the state machinery is being prostituted for further widening these dissensions. Separatist consciousness breeding jealousy and conflict is being fostered in sections of our people by naming them Harijans, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and so on and by parading the gift of special concessions to them in a bid to make them all their slaves with the lure of money.
In their hearts of hearts, very few of those anti-caste zealots experience the sense of unity that can transcend the present-day perversities. Anti-caste tirade has verily become a mask for them to strengthen their own positions among their caste fellowmen. To what extent this venom has enterd our body-politic can be surmised from an incident which occurred some years ago. There is a 'Victory Pillar' near Pune, raised by the English in 1818 to commemorate their victory over the Peshwas. An eminent leader of the Harijans once addressed his caste-brethren under that Pillar. He declared that the pillar was a symbol of their victory over the Brahmins as it was they who had fought under the British and defeated the Peshwas, the Brahmins. How heart-rending it is to hear an eminent leader thus describing the hated sign of slavery as an emblem of victory, and the despicable action of fighting as slaves of a foreigner against our own kith and kin as an achievement of glory! How utterly his eyes must have been blinded by hatred, not able even to discern the simple fact of who were the victors and who the defeated! What a perversity?
Many Strings, but Same Melody
The diversity of our national heritage has also expressed itself in the field of our languages. Considering the vastness of our country and of our people, it is nothing to be surprised about. If any person in our country starts from his place and moves on foot from one province to another, he can observe a gradual change in language after every ten or fifteen miles, a natural transformation from one language to the other, and coalescing at the border. Even in the same language there is remarkable variance in the usage of words and expressions form place to place owing to the closeness to other languages. It only shows that all these languages are intrinsically one. It is like the gradual changeover of colours in a rainbow. Though it appears resplendent with a variety of hues, it is the same ray of the sun, which has taken those charming grabs. Similar is the glory of our languages.
Take any language in the country; we find the same sublime sentiments, the same inspiring thoughts and ideals reflected in all its literature. The same personality of Sri Ramachandra stands eulogised by a Valmiki in Sanskrit, by a Tulsi in Hindi and by a Kamba in Tamil. What does it matter if the medium changes provided the same light shines through all of them? It is just like a man dressing himself in various beautiful garments-of course all befitting his culture and character. The man does not change on that account.
the Vedas, saying that Tirukkural is their distinct scripture. Tirukkural is undoubtedly a great scriptural text more than two thousands year old. Saint Tiruvalluvar is its great author. We remember him in our Pratah-smaranm. There is an authentic translation of that book by V.V.S.Iyer, the well-known revolutionary. What is the theme propounded therein, afterall? The same old Hindu concept of chaturvidha-purushartha is put forth as the ideal. Only the chapter on Moksha comes in the beginning. It does not advocate any particular mode of worship or name of God but enuntiates the pure idea of Moksha. Thus it is not even a sectarian book. Mahabharata also eulogises the same picture of social life as Tirukkural presents. Except with the Hindu, this unique vision of social life is not found anywhere else. It is thus purely a Hindu text propounding great Hindu thoughts in a chaste Hindu language.
In fact all our languages, whether Tamil or Bengali, Marathi or Punjabi are our national languages. All these languages and dialects are like so many flowers shedding the same rich fragrance of our national culture. The source of inspiration for all these has been the queen of languages, the language of gods-Sanskrit. By virtue of its richness and sacred association, it also can serve as the common medium of our national intercourse. Nor is it difficult to acquire a working knowledge of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is to this day one of the greatest cementing factors of our national life. But, unfortunately, it is not in common usage now, nor do our present rulers possess the moral pride and grit to bring it into vogue.
English or Hindi?
There are some who desire that English should continue as the ‘lingua franca’ for all time to come. Language being a living medium of human intercourse, the foreign language English is bound to bring in its train English culture and English life-patterns also. And allowing foreign life-patterns to take root here would mean the undermining of our own culture and dharma. Centuries of foreign rule has failed to destroy our great nation only because we have preserved our cultural heritage through the media of our languages. Acceptance of English would mean sapping those mainsprings of our vitality. English was just an artificial imposition that accompanied the English domination and as such must be thrown off now that we have become free. To continue to give it the same status as it enjoyed during the foreign domination would be a sign of mental slavery and a blot on our national prestige in the eyes of the world.
There is not a shadow of doubt that English is bound to go for two very solid reasons. Fristly, during the British regime, there was a natural tendency on the part of the people to learn the language of the rulers, become proficient in it and even face the British in their own language. Now, with the Britisher gone, that urge has naturally disappeared. Secondly, during the British rule non-learning of English put a virtual ban on entry into any lucrative post in Government service. Without English-learning even the best of intellectuals were thrown in the wilderness, not only financially but in social life as well. Now that fear also is gradually going. English language was just a part of British Rule and no amount of artificial puffing up can make it survive for long after its main support has collapsed.
As a solution to the problem of ‘lingua franca, till the time sanskrit takes that place we shall have to give priority to Hindi on the score of convenience. Naturally we have to prefer that form of Hindi which like all other Bharitya languages, stem from Sanskrit and gets sustenance from Sanskrit for its future growth in all fields of modern knowledge like science and technology. It does not mean that Hindi is the only national language or that it is the oldest or richest of all our languages. In fact Tamil is a much richer and older language. But Hindi has come to be the spoken language of a large section of our people and is the easiest of all our languages for learning and speaking. If we go to Kashi or Prayag on the occasion of Kumbha or some other mela where people from far North, South, East and West flock to have a holy dip in the Ganga, the vast multitude manages to express itself only in Hindi, however crude it may be.
Long Live All Languages!
We have therefore to take Hindi in the interest of national unity and self- respect and not allow ourselves to be swept off our feet by slogans like ‘Hindi imperialism’ or ‘domination of the North’, etc. In fact, Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati have made tremendous strides in spite of British rule. They have succeeded in producing such outstanding works as have drawn unstinted praise from the greatest men of letters the world over. No one would ever tolerate the idea of destroying our various beautiful languages, which have been so ably expressing the soul of our nation for the last so many centuries only to retain a single language. Any apprehensions of encroachment for dominance over other languages by Hindi are therefore pure fiction cooked up by interested politicians.
In fact, with rise of Hindi, all our sister languages also will flourish. The enemy of all our Bharatiya languages is English. Once an advocate in a prominent city in Tamilnadu stated that Hindi would destroy Tamil. But when asked why he continued to speak in English and not in Tamil in district and lower courts which permitted the use of Tamil, he had no answer for it. The fact is, the real enemy of Tamil is not Hindi; rather English is the enemy of both. This is not the case of Tamil alone, but of all our other languages as well.
This is how language has become one more point of friction after the advent of Swaraj. The formation of linguistic states has given one more handle to politicians to work up linguistic chauvinism in the minds of people. It is very strange that even eminent men indulge in mud-slinging at other languages. A very eminent personality form the South once said in a public meeting that Hindi had but two great literary works-one, the Tulsi Ramayana and the other, Railway Time Table! To match this, a noted Marathi dramatist made one of his character say, "Southern language? Put some pebbles in a clay pot and shake it vigorously and you hear those languages!" No doubt, this was said out of fun, but such fissiparous fun and ignorant mocking will only make matters worse.
The Great Myth
Today so many other new points of dissension and disintegration are cropping up. The Aryan-Dravidian controversy, for example, is very recent and artificial. It is one of the
modern superstitions being assiduously built up by unscrupulous power-seeking persons. Whatever diversity of race we may have had in this country to begin with was obliterated long ago by time and processes of history. Two thousand years ago the country had been grouped under Pancha Gowda and Pancha Dravida, the South coming under the letter name. It was not a racial but only a territorial denomination. The people in the South were always considered to be as much 'Aryan' as those in the North. In our country the word 'Aryan' was always a sign of culture and not the name of a race. All through the puranic literature, wives address husbands as 'Arya'. Surely the wives were not anarya! 'Arya' simply conveyed 'a noble person'. We find Sri Krishna too using the word 'Arya' in the same sense in Bhagavad-Gita. When Arjuna's heart fails on the opening day of Kurukshetra war, Sri Krishna chides him for his anaryajustam i.e., ignoble attitude.
It is being made out today that the struggle between Rama and Ravana was the one between Arya and Dravida. How ludicrous! Ravana himself was a great Sanskrit scholar and a devotee of Shiva. He is even reported to have set Sama-veda to music. His father Vaishrava was a Brahmin and so was his grandfather, Pulastya. If anything, Ravana was oppressing the South and Rama only liberated the Southern people form his oppression!
And again, the Harsha-Pulakeshin struggle is sought to be made out as an attempt by the North to dominate the South and its successful rebuttal by the South. But Pulakeshin was not a Dravidian at all, much less a Tamilian! His kingdom was founded in Pratishthan- modern Paithan- on the banks of Godavari in Mahrashtra. In any case, the two kings came to terms and lived amicably. The North-South controversy is pure and simple power-politics got up by modern politicians who find the present climate extremely congenial for sowing seeds of all sorts of separation.
The Fresh "Inventions"
We also find ever new denominations coming up in common usage-all connoting a fundamental disparity between one section of the people and the other. In the natural course of our national life, there are some who live in cities, mainly educated employees, industrial labourers and traders; some others, mainly agriculturists, live in villages and some have as yet remained in jungles and hills. But those forest-dwellers, the vanvasis, are now called adivasis, aboriginals, as if all others are upstarts and settlers coming here from somewhere outside!
Then there is also the artificial barrier created between the city-dwellers and villagers. The so-called educated man feels a class by himself, and looks down upon the village folk as uncivilised. The evil legacy of British rule, when the English-educated used to dress and behave as their English masters did and looked down upon the common people in a spirit of contempt, is still continuing. The English-educated still feel themselves somewhat different, somewhat above the other people. Today there is a call to the educated to 'to go back to villages' and improve the standard of life of the villagers. But how many really go? The very idea of village life chills their heart!
A Duty by Birth
Let us not forget that it is the common folk in the villages who have been the real backbone of our nation. Even in the past, whenever our society was threatened by foreign invasions, it was these 'village rustics', these very 'unlettered masses' who rose to the rescue of swadesh and swadharama, regardless of the endless suffering they had to endure and sacrifice they had to offer.
There is now a clamour for 'equality for women' and their 'emancipation from man's domination'! Reservation of seats in various positions of power is being claimed on the basis of their separate sex, thus adding one more 'ism'-'sexism!'- to the array of casteism, communalism, linguism, etc.
Realise the Grand Unity
Such is the picture of our people, past and present. The picture should naturally spur every son of this soil to revive once again the age-old spirit of identity in our people in all its pristine purity. The whole of our people should be reinstalled as the living God in our hearts. In fact, such a spirit of identity had been the one undying message of our ancient culture. The others stopped at saying 'Fatherhood of God' and 'brotherhood of man.' We travelled far ahead and realised the identity permeating all things right from Brahma down to inert matter.
Let us therefore revive that pure spirit of oneness born out of the realisation that we are all children of this great and sacred motherland Bharat Mata. Let us cry a halt to the various discordant notes being raised knowingly or unknowingly, landing us in confusion and fission. Let us not be like the blind men in the story, who touched the various parts of an elephant and gave their own descriptions of the animal. The one who caught hold of its leg compared it to a pillar, the other who touched its trunk said it was like a serpent, and another who embraced its belly likened it to a huge drum and so on. Each was partly right, but all were wrong in their conception of the animal in its totality.
Once the life-stream of unity begins to flow freely in all the veins of our body-politic, the various limbs of our national life will automatically begin to function actively and harmoniously for the welfare of the nation as a whole. Such a living and growing society will preserve out of its multitude of old systems and pattern whatever is essential for and conducive to its progressive march and throw off those which have outlived their utility and evolve new ones in their place. No one need shed tears at the passing of the old order nor shirk to welcome the new order of things. That is in the nature of all living and growing organisms. As a tree grows, ripe leaves and dry twigs fall off making way for fresh growth. The main point to bear in mind is to see that the life-sap of oneness permeates all parts of our social set-up. Every system or pattern will live or change or even entirely disappear according as it nourishes that life-sap or not. Hence, it is useless in the present social context to discuss about the future of all such systems. The supreme call of the times is to revive the spirit of inherent oneness and the awareness of its life-purpose in our society. All other things will take care of themselves.
Let us all remember that this oneness is ingrained in our blood from our very birth, because we are all born as Hindus. Some wise men of today tell us that no man is born as Hindu or Muslim or Christian but as a simple human being. This may be true of others. But for a Hindu, he gets the smaskar when he enters the mother's womb, and the last when his body is consigned to the flames. There are sixteen smaskars for the Hindu, which make him what he is. We are Hindus even before we emerge form the womb of our mother. We are therefore born as Hindus. About the others, they are born to this world as simple unnamed human beings and later on, either circumcised or baptised, they become Muslims or Christians.
Therefore, to strengthen the unity and spirit of identity in our society is a duty born with our birth, our sahaja karma. And that which is our sahaja karma must not be given up even if it may appear to be defective.
Lkgta deZ dkSUrs; lnks"kefi u R;tsr~A
says the Gita. It is therefore our pre-eminent duty to see that the present differences and dissensions eating into our vitals are removed and our society moulded once again into a unified and harmonious whole.
We have also to remember that all other persuasions like politics etc., come later in life as we grow. Political parties come and pass away. Even today several parties are ranging one against another and who knows, the party at the zenith of popularity and power today may go down tomorrow and another may come up in its place. The political parties are by nature transitory. But society is eternal, immortal. So many kings and dynasties, so many of administration, so many political and economic systems have come and gone during the last thousands of years. But we as people bound together by ties of blood and history, remain one and whole. Therefore, we have to discriminate between what is permanent and what is transient and stick to that which is permanent and if the transient comes in the way of the permanent, it has to be given up.